29 February 2016

The Story of Patrick...Part 1

     Let me tell you the story of a man.  His name is Patrick. 
     We met him in the first few weeks of opening Open Door Mission’s South Omaha Family Outreach Center.  At this point, we were still figuring out the best ways to run the center.  One day he came in and said he wanted a coat.  I was at the front and asked to see his ID.  He muttered his assent, but simply looked at the coats.  He asked another question: whether or not he had to pay for anything.  I responded that he didn't, but that he did need to fill out the paperwork and present his ID.  Again, I was ignored.  He started putting on a couple of the coats, one over the other, in layers.  Once more, I asked him for his ID and to fill out the papers.  And once more, he agreed but did nothing.  As he continued trying on coats, I went to take care of something on the other side of the Center, turned around, and saw him walking out the door.
     The next time he came in, I wasn't quite so lenient.  I told him that he needed to present his ID to get anything, and this time he agreed.  He pulled out his wallet, muttering an excuse for last time.  I learned his name was Patrick from his ID.  Though he gave us an address, it became quickly apparent that he was homeless.

John Michael Den Hartog
Homeless Prevention Manager

26 February 2016

Being Diligent

     It is such a pleasure serving the Lord at Open Door Mission, alongside all of my fellow staff members.  I have enjoyed every minute so far of pouring into the men and women in our WorkNet Program.  It is a true privilege to see God work miracle after miracle in the hearts and lives of so many people that have walked through our doors.   
     So I will continue praying fervently for the staff, donors, volunteers, and friends, as well as the unique people they serve and the issues they endure.  Most of the world has no idea...
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  –Ephesians 4:1-3

Tanya Franck
WorkNet Director

25 February 2016

Riverside Reflections

     I love, love, LOVE my job!  It is a privilege speaking to students, hopefully inspiring them to be more compassionate and caring.  These are reflections from Riverside High School students really touched my heart:

"The story that Maggie told us really hit home for me. Although I haven’t met the girl in the story, I felt like I did. Her life wasn’t the best, and she didn’t make great choices, but sometimes those choices were what she had to do, even though they weren’t the best choices."

"Our speaker from Open Door Mission, Maggie, really changed my perspective on homelessness.   Her stories shed light on stereotypes about homelessness; how people judge each other before they even get to know that person's story.  People have grown up or lived a different lifestyle from you and may not have had the same resources that you had.  Someone growing up in a middle to upper class family is not going to understand a family that is living in poverty, because they don’t have to live the same way. "

"Maggie from Open Door Mission brought up a lot of good points and changed a lot of our points of view about the homeless.  She helped us to realize that everyone has a story, and we can’t judge everyone based on their outward appearance.  The person she talked about looked like a slob, the state had taken away four out of her five children, and fed her infant soda.  While in reality she did not know any better.  She grew up that way; her mother taught her to do these things.  You can’t judge people by their outward appearances, and Maggie made that point clear when she spoke to the class."

"When Maggie from Open Door Mission came to speak to us, I didn't know what to expect.  When she started speaking, it was clear that she knows her stuff about homeless and poverty.  When she told us the story about that mom, you could tell how much Maggie loves what she does and she loves to help others.  I learned a lot about poverty from Maggie. It’s cool that she works for a great organization that helps many people every day."

Maggie Cope
Community Relations Coordinator

24 February 2016

Planting the Seed

     At my men's group last week, I recognized a young man as one of our former guests.  His name is Jesse.  I talked for him for a few minutes, and he told me that the last time he was staying at Open Door Mission, he was in pretty rough shape.  He wasn't that receptive to the hope for lasting change that was being offered to him.
     Since he left our facilities, Jesse has checked into another shelter, gotten sober, and is now living in Omaha in a sober living facility.  Praise God for transformations!
     He wanted to let me know how grateful he is for what we did for him.  I let him know that it is always great to see any of our guests turn things around, even if they do it after they leave the Mission.  It truly is a blessing to be reminded that sometimes we are simply planting seeds that won’t sprout until a later time.
     Jesse said that he might someday like to come back and speak with the men in Journey to Work and New Life Recovery Program about what God has done in his life, and what He can do in theirs.  So awesome to see His work be done!

Gerry Ford
WorkNet Director

23 February 2016

A Beautiful Moment

     I wanted to take time to share the beautiful moment captured in this photo.  This is Steve, our volunteer at Timberlake Outreach Center front desk, a loving and caring person.  We truly are blessed to have him on our team.
     Please thank our volunteers when you see them.  At the Timberlake Outreach Center, this love and compassion for the homeless and near homeless is what we staff and volunteers see on a daily basis.  The lady you see in this picture was so grateful and thankful for what she received today.
     This is why we are here to serve and love and to be Jesus.
     Let's not lose focus.  Focus on Jesus and keep building our relationship with Him on a daily basis.  Then we will be able to love as fully as He does.
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.  –1 Timothy 4:16

Evelyn Valdez
Timberlake Outreach Center Receptionist

22 February 2016

Rocker Pose...for Christ!

"I came here directly from prison.  The photo’s background is of the prison across the street.  It is to represent where I was, and where I am now.  I am so grateful for everything, everyone, and praise Jesus.  I will keep trudging this road of victory, and remain an overcomer with Jesus."
     This quote is from my friend, Michael, whose story and walk have been inspirational to me.  Another other crazy God thing in Michael’s story is that one day he asked me if bass guitars were ever donated.  He explained how he used to play the bass a lot before he went to prison.
     I just so happened to have a bass dropped off to my office the week prior.  Since I have worked at Open Door Mission, this was the first time that we had ever received a bass guitar donation.
     That’s the other element to this photo—the rocker pose!
     I was considering God’s provisions during my Financial Peace class the other day.  God calls us to be patient and not try to take our blessings or the things we want before He has given us permission.  We care called to trust that God has our backs.  When we do, God blesses our socks off!
     Let Him start working in you and be diligent to Him.  Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you.  God knows what we need before we do.

Joshua Smith
Gift in Kind Director

19 February 2016

Encouraging Words

     What a blessing it is to receive sweet notes of encouragement from our volunteers, donors, supporters, past guests, and friends.  This is a note I received in the mail last month:

     Dear Faithful Brothers and Sisters at Open Door Mission in Omaha,
     Thank you for all you do for those in need.  May our Lord bless you richly and use you mightily in 2016.
     I will continue to support you in prayer and send money when I can.
     Thank you,

     It is notes like these that keep me going, that help me press forward, no matter what troubles lay ahead.  Thank you for each person who has encouraged, supported, and prayed for Open Door Mission and our staff.  Your words mean more than you will ever know.

Candace Gregory

18 February 2016

What God Sees

     I recently heard Jo Saxton speak at the IF: LOCAL Gathering in Papillion via LiveStream.
     She shared this (see image) with us and it was a beautiful reminder of how God sees us all.  
     At times, we feel we are unworthy and we put our identity in that.  But always remember that God does not see that in us—we have a new identity in Christ!
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.  Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.  For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.  -Colossians 3:1-3
     It's the same story with the guests we serve.  At times all they see is the negative and put their identity in that, but God has given us a new identity in Christ!  My prayer is that we would have eyes to see ourselves and others the way that God sees us!  May God use us to show people who their identity in Christ is, and may they be encouraged to walk that out on a daily basis!
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  –John 3:17

Trudy Woodward
Permanent Supportive Housing Director

17 February 2016

Blessing to Blessing

     Years ago when I was a case manager, I served a young family at the Lydia House.  Twenty years later, the mother of this family, Joyce, organized a baby shower at her church to bless the homeless mothers and babies of the Lydia House.
     It was pure JOY visiting with her.  Reminiscing together about the old facilities and how God has blessed us both so much was a treat.  You just never know how God will use someone.  The Lydia House served Joyce 20 years ago, and now Joyce served the Lydia House. What a blessing!

Candace Gregory

16 February 2016

Taco Bell Suprise

     Last week I went to Taco Bell for dinner.  As I was paying for my meal, Francisco came up to talk to me.  He is one of our graduates from 2015.  We were able to catch up a little, and he said he was doing fine.  He is working at the Taco Bell and living in an apartment nearby.
     We had a very encouraging conversation about life transformation and his decision to stay clean and sober.  He wanted me to let everyone know that he is eternally grateful to each person who invested in him and those who made his time with us a possibility.
     As staff, we don't all get to be harvesters all the time.  But we know that God uses many of us and our actions to be planters and cultivators, allowing people to come to Christ.  I know that many people played a part in witnessing to and praying for Francisco.  Praise God for life transformation.

Jason Green
Director of IT and Facilities

15 February 2016

An Eye-Opening Tour

     I wanted to share this personal story of encouragement with you all.  Last week, my grandparents came for their first visit at the Lydia House, and I gave them a tour.  They were in awe of all of the amazing things Open Door Mission and the Lydia House do for guests and the community. They were previously unaware of half the services the Mission’s campus provides!
     As I sit reflecting on their visit, I am overwhelmed by how lucky I am to get to work where such amazing things happen each and every day.  It feels great to share all God does here with them, and even better is to share that Open Door Mission is supported by community donations, gathered throughout the year.  God truly is good!
Click here to schedule your tour today!

Danielle Howard
Case Manager

12 February 2016

Servant Leadership

     And may I present, the President and CEO of Open Door Mission (who will have my neck for sharing this picture!).
     What does she do on a Saturday night?  Mop.  Why?  Because it needed to get done.  This is our servant-leader and I'm so thrilled to follow her giant footsteps.  We have a gem in Mrs. Candace Gregory.  Our staff, guests, and community are so blessed to have you!

Victoria Leuthold
Director of Development

11 February 2016

Turned Into Good

     Sometimes our hearts just need to hear some awesome words of encouragement.  So please let me share some with you today!
     Take a moment to think of Jesus Christ on the cross.  As He sacrificed His life for us, Jesus endured the most difficult moments He has known.  But out of the cross came a place of restoration, redemption, and new life.
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.  –Genesis 50:20
     What men meant for evil, God turned into good.  He still does that today.  Be encouraged that He can make all things work for the good of those who follow Him!

Brian Springer
Head Chef

10 February 2016

Walking in the Snow...With Canes

     On the way to pick up graduation items with my assistant Jennifer, we saw an inspirational sight.  An old couple was being escorted across the street by a gentleman who had abandoned his car to help.  We drove over, and offered a ride to their appointment.
     As we drove, they shared their story.  Apparently, they have been married for 38 years, and were walking with their canes from their home in the 18 degree, snowy weather!
     What a GREAT way that was to start our day—seeing the kindness of a stranger, being able to help these senior citizens, and hearing their story of unfailing love.  God is all around, if you take the time to look!

Steve Frazee
Senior Program Director

09 February 2016

On the Other Side of the Street

     Last week, I was driving a young man to Metro to take his first GED test.  As we were turning onto the campus, he looked around and said that he used to live in that area across the street.  That was where he was in a gang for over 10 years and where he was shot and had to run for his life with the shot wound.  Now, on the other side of the street, he was taking his first GED test.  He said that he never imagined this would ever happen and that it was incredibly humbling.
     Fast forward through the two and a half hour test, and he PASSED!  When he heard the good news, he was beaming with JOY and beyond words!
     God showed me through this that He can take us to the place of our deepest pain and turn that into triumph, as long as we turn it all over to Him. 
     Please keep this young man in your prayers so that, with God's help, he can continue on this journey, grow in his relationship with Christ, and triumph over his pain.

Anna Razamazova
Learning Center Director

08 February 2016

Snow Day! Part 2

     Each morning that I spent with our guests during the two snow day overnights was spent with our students.  What a blessing to start the day by hearing them share what God was doing in their lives and seeing many willingly offering to pray.  It was humbling and encouraging seeing each of the students rise to expectations, take their assigned tasks seriously, and work.  It was wonderful being able to empower and encourage them.  They glowed each time Amy or I praised them for a job well done.  They walked taller, held their heads higher, and smiled.
     On snow days, no one is in a hurry and there is no place to go.  This meant our guests wanted to tell their stories, and we got to listen.  Some allowed us to pray for them individually.  While working with the students, many wanted my opinion or advice or insight.  In the end, these conversations always led back to a passage in scripture and God’s Word.
     I couldn’t help but remember that the typical homeless person goes for three days without anyone speaking to them, six days without anyone making eye contact with them, 11 days without an affirmation or encouraging word, and 21 days without a hug.  Let this not be typical for homeless guests seeking services at Open Door Mission.
     BE Jesus, SO people can SEE Jesus and want to KNOW Jesus.

Candace Gregory

05 February 2016

Snow Day! Part 1

     During the recent Blizzard Kayla, I spent two nights sleeping over at Open Door Mission’s Campus.  How was it?  It was an adventure that I loved.  What a reassurance to know that staff were safe at home and so were our guests.  This was only the second time that I can remember spending the night on campus in my more than 20 years at the Mission.  The only inconvenience was the windows in the Administration building rattling loudly due to high winds as I tried to sleep…That and being so close to the work on my desk, knowing that it was not getting done. 
     As I reflect on those two days, the experience makes me more determined than ever to serve our guests with quality services.  I want to serve them not half way, but all the way with respect, dignity, grace, and God's love.  I want to spend more time in God's word, pray more for our guests and staff, pay attention to even small details at the Mission, and listen.
     Having to bundle up in layers to walk three blocks between the Administration Building and the Garland Thompson Men’s Center in freezing cold, bitter wind, snow, and sleet was a powerful reminder of how blessed I am.  I am grateful to have a warm home and vehicle, but also extremely sad thinking that some people have no choice but to walk in this weather.  My biggest heartache is for the many homeless who are choosing to live outside in this weather.  Yes, mental illness and addiction are factors, but I also wonder what I (we) can do to be more inviting to them.  

Candace Gregory

01 February 2016

Taking it to the Next Level

     Kim Schiltz, co-owner of Authentic You Salon, reached out to me a few weeks ago with a question.  She already blesses the WorkNet program with haircuts and colors before mock interviews, but she wanted to know if we had professional clothing for our women.  I told her that we didn't have a lot available, and she said she had been going through her closet and had some things she no longer wanted.
     So Kim asked if she could donate these professional clothes to the Lydia House specifically to set our WorkNet women up for success.  I told her how awesome that would be, and she went a step further and posted on the Salon's Facebook page that customers could also bring in professional clothes to her shop.
     This picture is what I picked up from Kim last week!  Thank you Lord for continued blessings!

Gerry Ford
WorkNet Director